A study spanning 14 cities across Asia has found the highest incidence of Colorectal cancer among ethnic Chinese, a trend that researchers in Hong Kong on Monday blamed on a more westernized diet.
Between October 2004 and April 2005, doctors performed colonoscopies on 5,055 people and found polyps in 19.4 percent of the subjects. Of these, four percent had cancer.
A further analysis found that colorectal polyps and cancers were found in more than 18 percent of ethnic Chinese, followed by just over 12 percent of Indonesians, 12 percent of Malaysians, 10 percent of Thais and eight percent of Filipinos.
Ethnic Indians were the healthiest in this regard, with only five percent suffering the same condition.
A leading researcher in the study blamed the phenomenon on the genetic makeup of ethnic Chinese and their changing diet.
“The prevalence of colorectal polyps and cancer among ethnic Chinese is very high, as high as in Caucasian populations,” Leung Wai-keung, professor at the Chinese University’s Institute of Digestive Diseases, told Reuters in an interview.
“Our belief is that the Chinese genetic makeup is very susceptible to Colorectal cancer but this race has been protected by traditional Chinese diet.”
“But now, with lifestyle changes, a westernized diet, this genetic susceptibility has been brought out,” he said, adding that diets rich in fat and red meat were the chief culprits.
The study covered the cities of Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Delhi, Jakarta, Fukuoka, Kitasato, Kurume, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Taipei, Kaohsiung and Bangkok.
Among ethnic Chinese examined in the survey, researchers found those in Hong Kong the most susceptible to advanced colorectal polyps and cancer - 11 percent of them were diagnosed with the condition.
Eight percent of Chinese in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou were found with the illness, compared to four percent of ethnic Chinese in Singapore and just over two percent of ethnic Chinese in Taiwan.
The study also found that the incidence of colorectal problems was highest among people over 50 years old.
“If you are above 50, we would advise some kind of screening,” Leung said.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD